"package store"

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Fri Sep 1 18:29:37 UTC 2000

>At 5:03 PM +0100 9/1/00, Lynne Murphy wrote:
>>I notice that the AHD doesn't have it as a regionalism, but the
>>definition make no reference to any laws that would have to hold in a
>>region in order for its liquor stores to be called 'package stores'.
>>If we imagine that use of 'package store' is found in a checkerboard
>>pattern across America, and in the places where they don't use
>>'package store', they don't understand it, is 'package store' a
>>regionalism?  I'd say yes, and perhaps we could even say it's many
>>regionalisms (because it's used in many regions).  But say the
>>opposite parts of the checkerboard say 'liquor store'--is that a
>>regionalism?  It's understood by the 'package store' people because
>its meaning is compositional, but it's not used by them.

And then Larry Horn wrote.

>Have we established this?  I thought previous posters who grew up
>with "package store" all acknowledged that they ALSO were familiar
>with "liquor store", whether or not they thought of the two as
>interchangeable.  I'm not entirely willing to concede that "liquor
>store" is compositional either--at least in places like New York
>where liquor stores also sell wine, but where 'wine' isn't
>necessarily a hyponym of 'liquor'.

It was supposed to be a hypothetical question (about how we define
something as 'regional')--I don't think we have decided that some
people only call it a 'package store', but I did have that feeling
during my 5 years in MA.  I remember a dorm conversation in which I
acknowledged my pre-MA ignorance of the term 'package store' and my
native Massachusetts dorm-mate asked "then what do you call them?"
and on hearing 'liquor store' she said something like "I guess you
could call it that"--it seemed like it hadn't occurred to her before.
But this is just nostalgia--god knows how accurate.  (So far MA, MI,
MO, MS have been claimed to be 'package store' territory.  I'm
detecting a pattern here.  Any word from MD, ME, or MT?  And I think
both TN and TX have been claimed as well, plus CT.  New hypothesis:
if a state has an M or a T in its postal abbreviation, it uses
'package store'.  Science!!)

I don't think the wine/liquor argument about compositionality holds
up unless you try to call a store that only sells wine a 'liquor
store', since (a) there is a sense of 'liquor' that includes wine,
and (b) just because a liquor store sells things that aren't liquor
doesn't mean it's not a liquor store.  (They're not disqualified for
selling mixers and peanuts.)  Our compositional 'formula' for 'X
store' constructions seems to be 'store that exists to sell X'.  (And
so clothing stores can sell wallets and umbrellas and grocery stores
can sell cigarettes.  I suppose to some people, cigarettes are

I don't think a store that only sold wine could be called a 'liquor
store'--since it's not prototypical 'liquor'.  So you have wine
stores and (esp in Canada) beer stores as well.

Getting thirsty,
Dr M Lynne Murphy
Lecturer in Linguistics
School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QH UK
phone +44-(0)1273-678844
fax    +44-(0)1273-671320

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